After her release from prison in 1992, Debbie Kilroy established Sisters Inside to fight for the human rights of incarcerated women and to address gaps in services available to them and their children. Since then, Debbie has completed four tertiary degrees – in social work, forensic mental health and law – and was the first and only former prisoner to be admitted as a legal practitioner in Queensland. As the Chief Executive Officer of Sisters Inside, Debbie works at the coalface of human rights activism and her eloquent advocacy to highlight the over-representation of women, particularly Aboriginal women and girls in Australia’s prisons has earned her many accolades. She has spearheaded a long list of ground-breaking programs which have broken the cycle of imprisonment. Debbie has overcome her own personal obstacles to rebuild a life that is lived in service to others and she works long and hard to improve the circumstances of the powerless, the voiceless and the disadvantaged.
Debbie opened her own legal practice that sits alongside Sisters Inside in 2013. The law firm is a criminal defence practice that advocates for the human and legal rights for people charged with criminal offences. Debbie was awarded the Order of Australia in 2003 for her tireless work with criminalised and imprisoned women and girls and the Australian Human Rights Award in 2004. In 2013 Debbie was awarded as the Churchill Fellow for the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust of Australia and in 2016 celebrated as the Australian of the Year Finalist (Qld).